The Vatican is applying diplomatic pressure on Western powers to pursue peace talks rather than take military action against Syria, insisting on a political solution and warning against a "rush to judgment."
Pope Francis said Sunday he was disturbed by the "terrible images" coming out of Syria after the chemical weapons attack in Damascus last week, and stressed it is "not confrontation that offers hope to resolve problems, but rather the ability to meet and dialogue."
The Holy See is taking the same line in its conversations with diplomats in Rome, arguing that any military operation won't resolve the situation, but worsen it.
"Our position is very clear," a Vatican diplomat told Newsmax. "It's what the Pope said during his Angelus address [on Sunday] and that's the same position he's had from the first day. It's no to violence, no to military intervention, and not to continue the war."
Pope Francis is expected to continue voicing his concerns until the situation improves, and although he has no intention yet of sending a peace envoy to the region, the Holy See is "open to doing everything it can to find a political solution," the official said.
Earlier in the week, the Holy See's observer at the United Nations and the U.N. Human Rights Commission in Geneva, warned against the "rush to judgment without having sufficient evidence."
Archbishop Silvano Tomasi said "the international community, through the U.N. observers who are already present in Syria, can shed light on this new tragedy." Rushing to judgment in a situation of conflict "can make matters worse," he said.
Tomasi also said he had the impression "that the press and media don't consider all the aspects that create these situations of violence and continuous conflict."
"We saw this in Egypt with the case of the Muslim Brotherhood, where indiscriminate support for them led to more violence," Tomasi said.
The Vatican diplomat in Rome said in any future talks, "both sides will have to renounce something, but military action will cause more problems."
He also said the Holy See would like to see more attention placed on the dire humanitarian situation caused by the conflict, as well more pressure exerted on the U.N. Security Council to implement a peace process.
Over the past week, Catholic bishops in Syria and the Middle East have spoken out forcefully against the proposed military intervention.
Syrian Catholic Patriarch Youssef III Younan said Syrian Christians "have been betrayed and sold by the West," and they are "disillusioned by the cynical, Machiavellian" policies of Western nations, the Gulf states, and Turkey.
Over the past 2½
years, these states have armed the rebels, only to realize there can be no military solution to the crisis, he told Terrasanta.net, a news agency.
Other bishops have warned that military action would be a "disaster," while the Bishop of Aleppo in Syria feared any intervention could spark "a world war."
Christians have been caught in the crosshairs of what is essentially a sectarian conflict between the Sunni and Shia Islamic sects, fueled by outside powers, individuals and Islamists.
In a stinging statement released Wednesday, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal, questioned the authority of the United States and its allies to launch an attack, wondered who appointed them to be "policemen of democracy," and warned of the risk of more civilian casualties and unforeseen consequences.
Meanwhile, Archbishop Maroun Laham, the Latin Patriarchate's Jordanian representative, said the region's Christians are highly suspicious about the motives for such military action, especially given continuing doubts over the culpability of the chemical attack.
"This interest, on the part of the United States or of Europe, for human rights or for the defense of the weak, no one believes. No one believes it," Laham stressed Thursday on Vatican Radio.
"All of them seek their own political and economic interests. So, since no one believes their goodwill, we do not want this wish for war applied to Syria."
Laham added: "We hope that the voice of reason, and for us, of faith, will prevail and that the Syrian crisis find a political solution."
Edward Pentin began reporting on the Vatican as a correspondent with Vatican Radio in 2002. He has covered the Pope and the Holy See for a number of publications, including Newsweek and The Sunday Times. Read more reports from Edward Pentin — Click Here Now.
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